“I didn’t want to talk my son into not wearing dresses and skirts,” [Niles] Pickert tells the German feminist magazine EMMA. “He didn’t make friends in doing that in Berlin already and after a lot of contemplation I had only one option left: To broaden my shoulders for my little buddy and dress in a skirt myself.”
I find myself constantly doing things to boost JD’s morale. My son loves art and we draw, paint, mold all the time. Thing is, my home is a safe place for art, because anything we put on paper or mold out of Play-Doh is deemed gorgeous, unique and well … art.
However, the preschool set is not so kind. JD came home crying the other day because a student in his class claimed his art was “scribble scrabble poo!” This made me, fine, laugh, but then I went into my spiel and being a writer, someone whose work is constantly read and judged, totally helped me understand his frustration and explain it to him. Plus, someone made fun of me in preschool when I colored Jesus’ face green, because Jesus was supposed to have a nude or peachy face— def not green. I remember feeling sad butterflies in my stomach that day and like I did something wrong. I remember that day like it was yesterday, so as an adult, I still feel pangs of daggers when it comes to my work.
There are people who loved, liked and hated my book, Rattled! And that’s OK. There are people who are die-hard Christine Coppa blog fans—very cool, but then there are people who find my writing to suck it hard. This is cool, too. I went to The University of the Arts and my writing was critiqued and picked at by my hardcore peers and professors who were all working artists, authors and professionals. My cheeks were stained with many a tears in college. I would never, ever succeed. I frequented the Irish Pub often.
Writing for a living is no different. I get revises all the time. It’s part of the profession. Writing is a solitary practice, so feedback is crucial and critical. You can think you’re brilliant or that you suck—and then your editor can tell you the real deal—I’ve seen both sides of this. When Storked! debuted on glamour.com and Jezebel.com crucified me I called my Glamour editor … sobbing. I was a month away from giving birth: “I quit.” She said, and quite sternly: “Grow a thicker skin. I expect your next blog by end of day.” And by EOD she got it. And it all worked out, because I got a three-year contract with Glamour, a book deal and The New York Times liked it and that was, for me, as a very insecure writer, artist, what have you, the most humbling moment of my career. To even get mentioned in the NYT good or bad (but happy it was good) — I was stunned. But there’s a sh*t show of negative reviews of my book and blog all over the Internet, but at the end of the day, I feel good about my work—it’s not scribble scrabble poo (LOL), but when people say it is, I do look it over and think, I could have done this differently, or next time, I won’t sound so aggressive. Maybe this was mean to write. Maybe I was emotional and not rational. Maybe I should spell check more. But, these days, I assure you, quitting is not in my blood. I loved reading about how so many people disliked HBO’s Girls and how Lena Dunham defended her work (which I love). We get it. We know everyone doesn’t like our writing or vision. (Sometimes we hate it too. Secretly, my writing that makes me cringe is my fave and worst.) What we need to do as parents is make sure our kiddos know it’s still OK for them to LOVE their work, vision, life, clothes, art …
I explained to JD that in life there are going to be people that love you, like you and don’t like you and same for your art, sport. That night after dinner I spread out an old sheet and rolled out a giant piece of paper on the living room floor. Music blasted. I sat on the rug and started scribbling with a red crayon. Crazy, chaotic, no sense lines, swirls and twirls. “Whyyyyy are you making scribble scrabble, moooooooom!”
“What?” I said. “This is art, dude. Wanna help?” I handed him a purple crayon. We scribbled and scrabbled and then we looked over our work and decided it was an outer space rainbow.
All was right again. Sometimes we just have to remind our kids they aren’t wrong, weird, or different for liking what they like. In fact, they are awesome. And I found JD in my heels the other day and he asked me if it was OK. I said, “Yeah man!” and put on some other heels and trotted around with him. Who cares!
How do you encourage your kids and help them to be themselves and free, little birdies? Share!
*Above art by JD: Mommy and me by a tree. Uncle Carlo retrieving rainbow fruit. The sun is purple because I like purple. The clouds are yellow because they are filled with sun. —JD
Awesome App for your lil artists: Art My Kid Made. I love it!! (Not paid to say so, either)
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